We are referring to the recent Mahābhārata series that was featured in the Star Plus channel from September 2013 to about July 2014. The entire series has been such a sacrilege to the sacred book of Mahābhārata that it definitely needs a mention in this article for the benefit of everyone.
Only saintly Vaiṣṇavas (devotees of Lord Viṣṇu or Lord Kṛṣṇa) have implicit faith in the descriptions of the Vedic scriptures and consequently, only they can accurately portray the pastimes (lilas) of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His devotees.
Such pure and faithful descriptions are saturated with medicinal properties that can cure the bhava-roga, or the disease of the cycle of birth and death and reinstate us in our healthy life in the kingdom of God, called Vaikuṇṭha. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.9).
But hearing or watching descriptions of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes portrayed by avaiṣṇavas, non-devotees of Kṛṣṇa, has a totally opposite effect, that is, they are poisonous just as much as milk, although highly nutritious, when touched by the lips of a snake becomes poisonous, and thus, unfit for drinking. This is confirmed in a Vedic scripture called Padma Purāṇa.
This exactly has been the case with the Mahabharat 2013 TV series on the Star Plus channel. First, we shall have a brief look at the transcendental significance of this great scripture. Then we shall look at the sacrilege meted out to it by the director and crew of Star Plus’s Mahabharat 2013 series and the detriment the series has caused upon the innocent viewers and for the world at large. We shall then look at what can be done to rectify the situation.
Glories of Mahābhārata
The Mahābhārata is considered by the great sages as the fifth Veda. The original undivided Veda has been divided into four by Śrīla Vyāsadeva – The Ṛg, the Sāma, the Yajur and the Atharva Vedas. The Mahābhārata is actually an ancillary Vedic literature, technically called itihāsa, or a historical narration.
But it is so replete with the most valuable spiritual and moral instructions to guide the general populace on the path of liberation from the cycle of birth and death that it is known as the fifth Veda. The Bhagavad-gītā, which is the most important part of Mahābhārata, is actually the essence of the entire range of Vedic literatures.
The entire corpus of Vedic literatures, including the 4 Vedas, 18 mahā-purāṇas, 18 upa-purāṇas, 108 upaniṣads, the Vedānta-sūtra and the 2 itihāsas Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata are not products of imagination, unlike J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. They were compiled by Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the empowered incarnation of the all-perfect Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. Even in Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa claims in the fifteenth chapter that He is the compiler of vedānta. Therefore there is no error in any of these literatures.
Moreover, a single purpose directed these writings – to give chance to the suffering conditioned souls of this material world to tread the path of liberation from the repeated cycle of birth and death. While the Vedas and the Upaniṣads deal with empirical descriptions of the Absolute Truth, the purāṇas and the itihāsas are compilations of actual historical incidences in relation to the Absolute Truth.
The Absolute Truth is the Personality of Godhead. So incidences relating to His descent into this material world and His consequent performance of uncommon pastimes in the company of His pure devotees are the subject matter of the purāṇas and itihāsas. Such descriptions are all-auspicious and award liberation to the faithful hearers. This is confirmed by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.9) as follows:
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
To make this exalted goal of life available to even the common man, Śrīla Vyāsadeva has compiled the Mahābhārata just prior to the onset of the degrading age of kali-yuga, which throws the general population in utter darkness in relation to the ultimate aim of life of returning back home, back to Godhead. This is confirmed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.4.25) as follows:
trayī na śruti-gocarā
śreya evaṁ bhaved iha
iti bhāratam ākhyānaṁ
kṛpayā muninā kṛtam
“Out of great compassion, Śrīla Vyāsadeva has compiled this factual historical narration of the Mahābhārata for the ultimate benefit of the common man for whom the study of the Vedas is out of bounds.” The Vedas are subject matter for highly elevated scholars. But the śāstras proclaim: kalau śūdra-sambhavaḥ. In kali-yuga, everyone is a śūdra. There is hardly any qualified brāhmaṇa. So out of compassion for the masses, Śrīla Vyāsadeva has compiled this literature for their benefit.
The belying Mahābhārata on TV
Therefore, considering the above points, the Mahābhārata is a most sacred literature and not a whimsical one like an ordinary novel. The word ākhyānaṁ in the above verse is very significant. It means historical facts. It is not mythology as is commonly perceived. It is ethically incorrect to change even ordinary historical facts, what to speak of such a sacred history as Mahābhārata?
The moment it is accepted as a myth, one will find no reason to stop himself from adding his own imaginations to the story. Is it right to think that great sages who have left all material considerations and are treading the path of liberation engage in reading imaginary stories like novels just like ordinary children do? The answer is a definite NO. This is a totally wrong idea.
The director of the Mahābhārata has altered the descriptions so much that there is hardly a single episode that depicts the pastimes correctly. If we have to list down the deviations, both narrative and philosophical, it will greatly lengthen this article. So we have decided to avoid it here. But who has given him the authority to do this?
This shows that he has not the slightest regard for the great scripture. Why portray it then? The answer is simple. He is taking advantage of the religious sentiments and the naivety of Indians and presenting a completely bogus version of Mahābhārata to the public and making huge revenue out of it. This is nothing but outright atheism.
Let us consider the bigger picture. The real wealth of India is its spiritual knowledge as enunciated in the Vedic literatures. It has been in existence since time immemorial. More importantly, this most practical knowledge, when applied, can solve the whole world’s problems.
Just the Bhagavad-gītā alone can bring about complete peace in the world. So these scriptures have to preserved with utmost care and reverence and their knowledge must be systematically disseminated. We cannot afford to adulterate them. The moment we do it, we shall be doing the greatest disservice to mankind. And once there is precedence, and that too, without public censure as in the case with this Mahābhārata series, others will not hesitate to contaminate it further in the future.
Read the original Mahābhārata
Having said that, the naivety of the Indians is also not condoned. Indians are fast adopting the Western culture and hence the traces of the rich Vedic culture and heritage are fast fading away. The younger generations are unable to see the rational sense in following such a culture because it is not being properly explained by either the family elders, who are themselves mostly in ignorance regarding the ultimate religious principles or by the so many so-called saints who end up cheating the innocent public.
As it is, the overwhelming malefic influence of the idiot box and the film industry coupled with the gaming industry and the American food industry has already destroyed the rich cultural fabric of the Indian society. To worsen it further, if the lifeline – our Vedic scriptures, are compromised, then there is no hope left for the people of India and thus, the people of the world and its future.
There has to be a grassroots-level educative undertaking that can make people aware of and inspire them to follow the high ideals of Kṛṣṇa conscious Vedic life as enunciated in the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda has done exactly this without the slightest compromise and with great success all over the world. His books are the oases in this vast desert of materialism. Despite his attaining samādhi in 1977, his books have continued to change the lives of thousands upon thousands of sincere souls all over the world even to this day and will continue to do so for centuries to come.
At Sri Krishna Mandir, as with temples of the worldwide Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, devotees have dedicated their lives only to propagate this most valuable science of the Absolute Truth with no ulterior motive and without even personal monetary remuneration of any kind. We sell authentic translations of the original Vedic texts of Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Kṛṣṇa-līlā and related books in many languages and Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata in English.
Not only that, we also teach the genuine philosophy and practical application of especially the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by way of classes for adults and children alike at our temple premises so that everyone can make their life blissful and sublime. Come and take advantage of it.